Would it be easier just to lie to myself and say: “I believe”

For the longest time, I considered myself Atheist/Agnostic. I couldn’t believe in a god without proof, couldn’t accept blind faith as reasonable. And I was convinced that even if I had proof, I couldn’t worship. The things carried out in the name of god or religion, are some of the most atrocious acts in history. Burning woman on stakes or wars based around religion, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea. Why is killing wrong, but it’s ok to do it in the name of god?

I never considered the concepts mutually exclusive, atheism and agnosticism. I always had questions, why is the sky blue, why do I have hair predominantly on my head, are there other planets capable of sustaining complex life forms, is there a god, and if there is why does he need followers, why give free will then punish it, why is one religion right and the rest wrong. Why? Why? Why?

There are so many questions about the universe that science won’t be able answer in my lifetime, and I accept that. And although science may not always get the answers right, it makes an effort to ask the questions. Science is based on theories and observation, and theories can be wrong. That’s the thing that I love about science, it’s great to be wrong because it opens the door to new ideas. It adapts and evolves to incorporate new information.

Faith is stagnant. It’s based on books written by men hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Belief and faith, particularly blind-faith, leave no room to be wrong. It’s my way or the highway.

My biggest pet peeve with religion, particularly Christianity because that’s the one I was more or less raised in, comes from Genesis (I think, I never really read the book :)). Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise for eating fruit from the tree of knowledge. How can someone like myself, rational and curious, follow a religion that says knowledge is bad, don’t ask questions, ignorance is bliss.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why so many feel comfortable just accepting. It’s easy. For myself, as an atheist (I’ve since dropped agnostic completely), I feel isolated. I don’t have a building to go to once a week to meet people who share the same ideals. Which is part of the reason I joined this site and started writing this blog. The only people in my life who are atheist, I’m pretty much responsible for. So the conversation is a little one sided.

Of all the things religion does wrong, it gets one thing right (sort of). It takes the sting out of death. If you live your life a certain way, if you’re good, death is just a temporary. It’s like a grade five graduation; it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not really a real ending; you’re just moving to a new building.

Again for me, this is the hardest part about being an Atheist. When I die, that’s it. No afterlife, no karmic revival, just dust and ash. It’s depressing, but that doesn’t make me change my mind, it won’t convince me of gods existence. I’m just a little more hesitant to debate believers. If heaven gets you through the day, who am I to convince you otherwise.

So I’m to my question at last, would it be easier just to lie to myself and say: “I believe”? Is it better to be content and ignorant, or alienated but true to myself?

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Comment by Garrick McElroy on March 5, 2010 at 4:36pm
I used to have the same problem. Then I reached a conclusion.

First off, I wouldn't want an afterlife with a God who's a douchebag.
Secondly, because I won't live forever, that means what I do here matters. I have to make an impact. I have to DO something. I can't just sit back and wait for stuff to happen like Christians can. I can't commit suicide by bombing a building and be sure I'll get virgins like the Taliban. I have to be in the history books. I won't let myself not be remembered. I want people to remember the name Garrick Brennan McElroy. There is no way I'm going to not do anything. That's how I look at it. I need to do something. And, for me at least, the thought of no afterlife is kind comforting. I don't know why. I just do.

It's a motivator for me, and I have to imagine it is for a lot of other atheists. Don't let it get you down. It just means you actually have a reason to give a shit about the world. Are you going to let your kids grow up in a world as messed up as it is now? I know I wouldn't. Don't get depressed about it. Life is too short to get depressed. Do something with it so it isn't a waste.
Comment by Rudy V Kiist on March 5, 2010 at 11:34am
There is karma Tara, just not necessarily the "spiritual/afterlife" kind. As in, let's say I meet you and say, "you look very pretty". It would probably make you feel good and in return you would most likely treat me nicely making me feel good...karma. Very simple, basic example, but the general concept usually works in life...except when trying to get LG to honour it's warranty on your home theater system...but I digress (^_^)
Comment by Glenn Sogge on March 5, 2010 at 10:57am
(I really really want to see life on another planet and I doubt I'll get that chance in my lifetime).

I won't either -- but I know that some of my descendants (not all that far down the road) will get the chance. A couple of hundred of years ago, we wouldn't even be talking rationally about the possibility.

re death: All we know about it is how the living react. We're the ones that find something missing when somebody dies. So, I think much of the fear is that we will leave something undone with no chance to finish or correct it.
Comment by Tara Price on March 5, 2010 at 10:47am
Yes the idea of heaven and it's eternal repetitiveness is horrible, I keep forgetting that part. But I did always liked the idea of karma, another chance to do everything over again. (I really really want to see life on another planet and I doubt I'll get that chance in my lifetime).

Thanks, Tara
Comment by Tom Thompson on March 5, 2010 at 10:41am
Heaven would be like Ground Hog Day, but forever and with no chance to change anything.
Comment by Jason Spicer on March 5, 2010 at 1:58am
Actually, I don't find the concept of heaven or an afterlife all that appealing. I'd like to live for a few hundred years, I think, but forever? No thanks. I think it would get fantastically boring. Particularly as imagined by most religionists. "Let's see, today is my four billionth anniversary of entry into heaven. What's on the agenda today? Looks like a light breakfast, then a brief walk down the gold-paved streets (note to self: do not forget welder's goggles like yesterday--ouch!) to the central plaza for morning worship. After that, it's a fun-filled worship lunch, followed by an afternoon of intense worship interleaved with full-throated hosannas, then dinner with a piece of anniversary cake (four billion candles! bring goggles again), the evening worship service, and then off to bed. Oh, right. Same as every day. Praise God!" Sounds like Hell to me. I'd rather be ash and dust.
Comment by Johnny on March 4, 2010 at 3:36pm
death isn't a sting. It's a blessing. Death makes life meaningful. The only reason to mourn death is if you think the person wasted their life. Without death, we would have no drive or motivation. We'd be day to day zombies. No discoveries, no imagination, no agenda to get things done.

For FSM's sake don't mourn death. Embrace life. The pain of another's death is a part of your life. It is a blessing in itself. Don't take things like that for granted.
Comment by Sonny Mobley on March 4, 2010 at 1:02pm
If you're weak. ^_^
Comment by Tom Thompson on March 4, 2010 at 12:36pm
"It takes the sting out of death."

I don't buy it. I've never seen a person happy about a loved one's death. Yes, they tell themselves and others that they've gone to a better place to console themselves but, by all appearances, they don't seem to really believe it. It certainly doesn't seem to take the sting out of the death.

If you believe that ignorance is bliss that is your prerogative. I suggest that it will not make your life happier though. You know the truth. You cannot lie to yourself.



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